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How to say sorry in business

Published:31 May 2022

Even when customer satisfaction levels are through the roof, no brand is immune to a service failure. What sets your brand apart is the way the problem is dealt with - how good you are at the art of saying sorry.

In a complaint situation, companies who deal with complaints to a satisfactory standard - that is, acknowledging the problem and taking steps to correct it - are more likely to keep hold of their customer base than those who simply accept the failure. The top reason for customer loss is feeling poorly treated - but if a brand resolves a complaint in the customer's favour, they'll return to do business again 70% of the time (Customer Experience Impact Report, Harris Interactive).

These are the three steps to take to perfect the art of saying sorry, and build a reputation for humbly turning errors around for your customers.

STEP 1 Have a system in place to deal with complaints. A recovery program doesn't have to include gifts or gestures of goodwill, but having a system in place to acknowledge, track and deal with complaints is the first step towards making a meaningful apology, and rebuilding an at-risk customer relationship.

A service recovery program acts as a contingency plan - allowing customer facing staff and managers to log complaints in as detailed a manner as possible, take ownership to resolve the issue, follow up with the customer and where appropriate, send a communication or gesture to show appreciation for the customer's feedback, patience and ongoing loyalty.

STEP 2 Empower staff extensively. The key to making a sincere apology following a service failure is immediacy. Rather than getting tied up in red tape and sending a customer from one service rep to another, empower staff extensively. Invite them to take responsibility for their customer's complaint, to move it through resolution procedure and to take the opportunity to say sorry on your brand's behalf.

With the right training and a simple-to-use recovery platform from STY, staff members are empowered to use details of the customer's background, previous purchases and the nature of the complaint to generate a series of pre-approved gestures suitable to the circumstance. Staff simply select a gift, add a sincere message of apology, and complete their transaction while on the phone or with the customer. Cascading this type of responsibility to colleagues across the business is a great way to engage them with a program of customer relationship building, and makes the most of both their instinct and professional expertise.

STEP 3 Collect information and act on it. What's the point in listening to complaints if you can't action change? With employees empowered to take control of service errors, the system you put in place must be able to collect and display data for analysis so customer experience managers can spot and fix recurring problems.

With a team in place to make improvements to CX and complaint handling, complaint information is more powerful than ever for inspiring culture change. Patterns, problems and root causes will be easier to identify and act upon, meaning it's more important than ever to get back in touch with those people who have taken the time to complain, thank them for their feedback, and let them know how the problem has been resolved - either on a small scale or companywide, customers need to know their problems have been solved.

Most unhappy customers simply leave and never come back, so by becoming a brand that fixes errors and follows up, your company is set apart as one with happy customers, who help you solve your problems.

If you're ready to build a program that empowers employees to perfect the art of saying sorry and build better customer relationships, Simply Thank You can build your bespoke platform with hand finished gifts, sincere messaging and management information that maps errors to identify solutions. Give us a call or send a quick enquiry, and our experts will be in touch.